I really wanted to wow my neighbor & new hiking buddy with a phenomenal meal on his first night so, of course, I went with fillets. Picked up a couple of 7-8 oz. fillets, a cluster of asparagus, a packet of mushroom brown gravy and a packet of instant skin-on red potatoes. The night before, I put the meat in the fridge. I put a stick of butter, about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and a few tablespoons of bacon grease in the freezer. Also froze four water-based cooler inserts. I use an insulated kids’ lunch box to carry ingredients that need to stay cool. Freezing some of the ingredients the night before helps keep things nice and cool even on warm days.
New additions to the kit:
On my last hike, my cheap tin cup finally gave up the ghost. I’ve purchased an Olicamp Hard Anodized Space Saver Mug and a hunter’s orange Sea to Summit X-Mug. The X-mug collapses to fit perfectly as an insulating lid for the Olicamp mug. I wrapped the Olicamp mug in orange 550 para-cord with a little loop on the side in case I wanted to hang it from something. I left the bottom unwrapped so that I could put it on a low heat to warm up.
I also bought a Rothco Molle Water Bottle Pouch to hold one of my Nalgene water bottles. I finally got tired of reusing old sports drink bottles – mostly due to the small mouth. Just can’t beat a wide-mouthed Nalgene. The pouch on the outside is a perfect fit for two Polar Pure bottles, a cigarette lighter, and my Leatherman Skeletool. It would also easily fit my camera, a candy bar, and one bottle of Polar Pure if I wanted to use it as a quick summit/off-trail exploration kit.
Finally, in anticipation of making mashed potatoes on the trail, I cut the handle down on a big plastic spoon so that it would fit in my mesh cook kit bag.
Friday morning, 1/1/2016
No better way to kick off the new year than to head out into the woods. The weather for the past week has been torrential rain with flooding everywhere. This ushered in the coldest temperatures so far this winter . . . with highs in the upper 40s and overnight lows dipping below freezing. I figured a few dry days would be enough to lower the creeks around BHT while still letting just about every waterfall in the area flow. Winter leaf-off, full waterfalls, cold enough to keep most folks off the trail. . . I can’t really think of a more perfect way to introduce someone to the trail.
About 7:45 am I backed the truck out to warm it up and stash the packs . . . only to see my neighbor heading on down the road toward my driveway with that grin on his face we all have heading into a hike. Plan was to be on the trail by 9:00 am.
Signed in at the visitor center and found there were two other groups, both going clockwise. I hate doing the trail clockwise. Parked at the trailhead, took obligatory pictures, and then headed into the woods.
That’s my neighbor and new trail buddy, Lucky. I told him we had to take pictures now because we won’t be this pretty when the hike ends.
I purposefully chose counter-clockwise for a couple of reasons. The first one is the Devil’s Half-Mile. In my opinion, that’s the most difficult part of the trail and I really like to get that behind me. Another reason is that once you get up on top of the mountain, it is pretty easy going until Junction Camp. I didn’t know anything about how Lucky was as a hiker and this was going to be a good chance to test him out. I figured if it took us too long to get to JC, then we could easily hike out to the trailhead in the morning and it would still “count” as an overnight trip. I’m not big on taking risks and felt responsible for making this a fun, safe hike for him. The final reason is that I really don’t think that section of the trail is as pretty as the rest. I wanted to end the hike with the wow-factor of heading through Quaill Valley.
We hit the trail at 9:00, approximately, and made great time. Just before we turned up the mountain, we did come across a trashed campsite – which was disappointing. It did provide one more picture, though, for my ongoing scavenger hunt of odd & inexplicable items found on the trail.
Yep. This. Sitting on a rock.
I also found a long section of orange paracord hanging from a tree, so I salvaged that while Lucky took pictures of the running water. Up the mountain, then.
I was huffing and wheezing like an asthmatic locomotive heading up that bit. He’s behind me barely breaking a sweat. I’m feeling every one of the pounds I put on this holiday season. Every. One. We do make it up to the top and head on. There’s been some kind of shifting or significant erosion on that side over the past few years. Lot of trees down across the trail, one section almost washed out. Nothing dangerous, just like I said – not the prettiest part of the trail. I got turned around once while telling a story. Saw a double-diamond and just did a little u-turn and zeroed in on the first diamond I saw. About ten, fifteen steps down the trail I hear him say, “Um. . . I think you’re going the wrong way.”
Heh. Nothing inspires confidence in your guide like watching him lose track of what side the mountain is on.
Stopped for lunch just as the trail takes a turn down toward the creeks. Down went the packs, out came the cameras. The water was just rushing. Beautiful. I’m leaning back on a rock noshing on a candy bar and grinning like I’m the one who made the water flow. It is really fun watching someone see this place for the first time.
Made it to the turn-off to Junction Camp around 1 and, really, I just couldn’t make camp that early. I did want him to see the campsites down there, though, so we walked through and took a few pictures. Recent flooding had dropped considerably and there was nobody around.
Spent the next two hours hiking to Rock Hole Camp. I figured the clockwise groups would be camping at either Quaill Valley or Rock House. At 4 we set up camp at the tall fire pit in the middle of Rock Hole Camp. Slung the hammocks, started a fire. I treated some water and started getting my cook kit together. When I showed him the steaks, he was dubious. “Those are. . uh.. pretty thick steaks.”
I just grinned.
This is how I keep the crew inviting me along. I ain’t pretty, I ain’t fast, and I don’t always smell so good after the first day. But I can cook like nobody’s business.